It would have been naive to think James Cameron’s storytelling abilities would have changed for the better in the 13 year span between the first two Avatar films. There’s no denying that Cameron is responsible for some of film’s biggest and most innovative titles. Since Avatar is his passion project and Pandora is where he’s looking to park himself for the remainder of his career, it’s simply mind-boggling that this (and 2009’s Avatar) is the best he can muster.
When it is not held back by a disconnected subplot and an unimaginative character introduction, Wakanda Forever flourishes as an expansive entry in the Black Panther mythos. Above all, however, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a respectful and loving tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s legacy not only as King T’Challa, but to the actor himself as well.
There’s a slight crisis of identity to the tone and pacing of Windfall, overall. The weighty themes and serious nature of the plot sometimes clash with the almost comic tone of some of the situations that arise. When more serious and immediate developments occur, there’s a bit of whiplash for the audience as we’ve moved into a more conventional thriller from the semi-absurd plot in which Windfall feels the most at home.
There was once some charm to the idea of Smith revisiting the Clerks universe every decade or so to check in with the characters as he (and they) reach certain milestones of aging. However romantic as that notion was at the end of Clerks II, Clerks III obliterates it and ensures that Smith will likely never return to this series. Following the abysmal showing here and in 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, which suffered the same nostalgic callback issues as Clerks III, it’s just as unlikely that this reviewer will be persuaded to give Smith’s future work much, if any, attention.
Cosmic horror in a rest stop bathroom sounds like a bizarrely twisted country song. It’s not. It’s the elevator pitch for Glorious, a bizarrely twisted Lovecraftian horror film premiering this week on Shudder. Glorious pits the heartbroken Wes (Ryan Kwanten) against the disembodied voice of a demigod of unimaginable power named Ghat (J.K. Simmons) with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. It’s not a battle of wills that brings these two together. It’s a request to lend a helping hand so that the universe may continue on its merry way existing and fostering life.
While the tension and most of the visual effects are strong enough to trigger anxiety in even the least acrophobic viewer, Fall’s script seems like someone had an idea and built an unoriginal, cobbled together drama around that concept. If you’re looking for a anxiety producing acrophobic thriller you can shut your brain off for, Fall should deliver. If you’re looking for something a bit more character driven, you’d be better off looking elsewhere.
Day Shift, the debut film from director J.J. Perry, is the latest offering from Netflix’s “throw it all at the wall and see what sticks” streaming blockbuster playbook. Despite dressing up an overdone action movie skeleton with genre fare, Day Shift succeeds by the skin of its stylistic action choreography and fun buddy energy between Dave Franco and Jamie Foxx. Though the story isn’t as meaty or interesting as you might like, the energy and quick pace of the film helps Day Shift stand out from the pack.
James Ponsoldt’s Summering is a peculiar coming of age drama with some slight genre leanings that spring up seemingly out of nowhere. The film is very clearly a riff on Stand By Me, but it doesn’t have the nuance or even the sense of direction that Rob Reiner’s classic film had. Not by a long shot. Instead, Summering is a tonal mess as the characters are haunted by visions of a dead man whose body they discover and (inexplicably) decide to move and desecrate. Again, this is a coming of age drama, so these genre trappings seem completely random and do not fit well in the narrative at all.
As he did with Get Out and Us, Nope further proves when we watch a Jordan Peele film, we are in the hands of one hell of a unique genre storyteller. Although Peele’s best work is still his debut, Nope demonstrates considerable growth in his talent behind the camera in terms of scale and overall design. Nope is a spectacle we won’t soon forget.
For 2/3s of its runtime, Hannah Marks’ Don’t Make Me Go is a very solid road trip drama about a father keeping his fatal brain tumor a secret as he takes his teenage daughter to meet her estranged mother. John Cho and Mia Isaac give strong performances in a script that does a respectable job of setting up the dire and dramatic circumstances in which the pair find themselves. It is unfortunate, however, that the other 1/3 of the film squanders that good will by upending itself with an unearned and manipulative story beat that feels too much like Vera Herbert’s script is attempting to trick the audience rather than bring the story to an organic and satisfying conclusion.
Gone in the Night is a nice blend of character drama and thriller mystery. It doesn’t disappoint in its resolution, as long as you buy into a relatively outlandish premise. Anchored by strong performances by Winona Ryder and a calm and cool Dermot Mulroney, Gone in the Night is a solid entry in the growing vacation rental suspense niche of the thriller genre.
Memory, from director Martin Campbell, is the latest in the seemingly never-ending slew of Liam Neeson action films. Its plot is as bare bones as they come as it spins its yarn of a dual narrative between Alex Lewis (Neeson’s hitman with a conscious) and an FBI agent (Guy Pearce) who crosses his path. The straightforward plot finds Alex (who’s battling the early stages of alzheimer’s) turning his gun on those who hired him after he’s contracted to murder a child. Meanwhile, Pearce’s Vincent forms a connection with the young undocumented victim of human trafficking that Neeson has spared.
For the briefest moment in Deep Water’s increasingly ridiculous tonal massacre of a climax, there’s a slight glimmer that something sort of unique may happen. However, the feeling is fleeting as the film’s ending simply confirms what we’ve already assumed through the previous hour and a half; not only does Deep Water not have any idea what it wants to be, but director Adrian Lyne doesn’t seem up to figuring it out himself. Instead, Lyne poses the question, “What if an erotic thriller was devoid of sexuality while also lacking any suspense whatsoever?” The jumbled and maddeningly awkward Deep Water is the answer and it’s not something that’s worth seeking out.
Turning Red’s core concept of a girl trying to control her newfound ability (or curse) and channel it for her and her friends’ benefit simply lacks the impactful emotional catharsis that is a signature of so much of Pixar’s previous work.